Tag Archives: Salad

Cocina Abierta new vegetarian menu in Condado

12 Sep

I’ve told you about Cocina Abierta… a super cool restaurant owned by a former neighbor of mine, Martin Louzao. Martin is an awesome chef, one with a former vegetarian girlfriend. I would like to think that based on her insistence or my insistence on her asking if several of their dishes were truly vegetarian, that he decided to create a Vegetarian Menu in his new location in Condado.

Cocina Abierta is not a vegetarían restaurant… we still have a great opportunity for Vegetarian Fine Dining in Puerto Rico. But Martin has certainly captured my attention developing new dishes and adapting several true and tried favorites to create a vegetarian tasting menu fit for celebrations, to take vegetarian friends when they travel to Puerto Rico and when you want to enjoy truly good cooking overall.

If you ignore the smells of grilled steaks coming from the kitchen… you will find Cocina Abierta has a great ambiance and atmosphere. Their menu is divided into ACTS, like a play, but we only ordered from the Vegetarian side concert. I took my friend Andrew, who was visiting Puerto Rico for work. Aside from the Yoga Center cooking, he had not had the chance to experience fine dining in Puerto Rico.

We ordered:

Baby Arugula Salad with Almond-Stuffed Dates and Caramelized Onions

Cocina Abierta - Vegetarian Menu Salad

Eggplant Mignon over a bed of Curried Couscous

Eggplant Vegetarian Dish

Ricotta Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Arugula

Cocina Abierta Vegetarian Menu

Gelatos – Salted Caramel and Strawberry Flavors

Cocina Abierta Vegetrian Menu

OMG!!!!   What an awesome experience we had!!! We shared everything because we wanted to taste as many things we could… I would have ordered another salad just for me… not because the serving was small, but because it was so delicious.

The Eggplant Mignon is something I would rarely order in a restaurant, yet I was very surprised to taste the flavors of India in a very refined manner, suitable for the Western taste buds. I am not too fond of Indian cooking and I enjoyed this very much…

The gnocchi are so rich and delicious… it was a good thing we shared. Because if not, I would have eaten the whole thing by myself and would have been counting the amount of calories for days.

The gelatos were spectacular, in particular the salted caramel one… with pieces of caramel inside. It was heaven on a plate. I may just go back and sit at their Dessert Bar just to have the salted caramel ice cream. Move over Mango Sorbet from Hagen Dasz, there’s a new frozen dessert in town!!!

I want to thank Martin and the whole Cocina Abierta team for a wonderful evening… our waitress Mari Carmen was a joy and made our dining experience all the better. When you have someone serving you who’s super excited about the food… it gets you excited too. We were very happy and Andrew even mentioned he might return again when his next business trip takes him back to San Juan.

I am glad I have an alternative to offer friends and people who ask on tour FB page – “Where can I eat in PR if I am vegetarian???” There’s no need to suffer or put your lifestyle aside if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico.

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I like Costa Rican “single guys”…  or do I??

22 Jul

I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica before …  and so far this year, I’ve traveled there TWICE!!!  Yep… Twice.  I remember when I was about to celebrate one of those milestone birthdays and I wanted to travel somewhere I had never ever gone before.  My mind immediately went to Greece, Turkey or even go back to Italy. And when I consulted with my guru, he quietly said: “Why don’t you go to Costa Rica?”

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What kind of enchantment did Costa Rica have?  I would not learn that until 3 years later in which, as a yoga group, we decided to take a short trip to San José and its surroundings.  It was a short trip indeed, but extremely intense.  We had the chance to visit San José and see once again my friend Flori, who also practices yoga, but now lives in her native land.  We also got to visit some of the volcanoes, go ziplining amongst the greeneries in Guanacaste and go down some cool rapids on the Balsa River.

Costa Rica Collage 1

It also gave us the chance to taste the local cuisine… particularly something Costa Ricans call Casados, or as translated in English, “Married”.  It’s a kinda weird name in both English and Spanish… don’t think it’s just weird to read it in English. Casados??, I asked when I read a sign in a street-side eatery.  It’s one of the most typical Costa Rican dishes around – it’s a combination of rice, beans, sweet fried plantain, salad, cooked vegetables, potatoes and some sort of meat.  And I said to myself…  Ahhhh, now I know what I want to order for lunch today.

The name “casado” was given to this combo dish because apparently when you get married is when you get to eat well and varied.  The thing is…  if my “casado” is meat-less, how should we call them then??  So I came up with my own little nickname – the “Soltero” or The Single, a “casado” without the meat.  And we got to eat Solteros all over the place.

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One of the advantages to us of Costa Rica receiving such an influx of US-based tourists is they have a sensibility for  vegetarian tourists.  Everywhere we went, there were vegetarian options and even pure vegetarian restaurants.  One example is Vishnu Restaurant, a vegetarian fast food joint with several locations in San José.    Ever since we stepped foot in San José we had delicious options to eat.  And even me, the non-bean lover, was asking for more of their refried black beans.  They were delish…

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After having such a great time on my first trip… I accepted the invitation of my friend Carlos to return to Costa Rica a few weekends ago. This time, Carlos and I got to visit the beaches on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, something we didn’t get a chance to experience on my first trip in March.  The nice thing… he got to introduce me to some fancy restaurants in San José and I got to show him what a traditional typical Costa Rican dish is – SOLTEROS!!!  And Carlos was veeeeeeeery happy about that, if you get my drift. 😉

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Costa Rica 3 Collage

Costa Rica is truly and amazing country, gorgeous landscapes and the food is delicious.  It’s a country who has taken advantage of their natural resources and made the best of it.  God only knows how many more times I’ll return to Costa Rica to fully understand why Guruji recommended me to travel here a few years ago.  Who knows if there is a real life “soltero” waiting for me, right?

Have you ever visited Costa Rica?  What are your favorite dishes?  Please share your experiences with all of us below…

A new Salad to start 2014

18 Feb

This was a post I should have written to publish early in January. Well, it’s already early in February and this will have to do.

This salad was part of our first KarmaFree Cooking class last December. And what’s different about a salad you should ask… well, besides trying to instill into people’s minds the importance of eating a large green raw salad every day, we wanted to introduce some new and different ingredients people might not use raw in a salad. Can you pick them out in this picture here???

A New Salad

Scroll down to see if you guessed right…

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Raw pumpkin and raw beets… They’re usually eaten cooked, but these are sweet and delicious additions to any salad.

I know that all you folks who are going thru winter might not crave something cold and raw like salad when it’s cold outside… but eating a healthy portion of raw veggies each day will certainly keep the cold and doctors away.

Here are the components of our Salad:

Green leaf lettuce
Baby Spinach
Alfalfa Sprouts
Yellow Bell Pepper
Shredded Pumpkin
Shredded Carrots
Shredded Beet
Sliced Red Onion

Toss all the ingredients in your desired proportions together in a salad bowl. Dress with your favorite dressing. May we suggest a healthy serving of our Parsley Garlic Dressing.

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Parsley Dressing…. GONE!!!!!

May your winter be pleasant and your salad bowl is always full.

Parsley Dressing

27 Sep

There’s more to curly parsley than just a chain restaurant garnish…  Just like there’s more to my friend Tania than meets the eye.

Perejil y Ajo

This is a recipe I learned from her. Tania is a hair stylist but, every time you go to her salon, you get your hair done and your tummy full. The last time I was there she fed me lunch… and as any typical yogi would do, half the plate she gave me was salad. But this salad was special… it had a special dressing.

Tania tells me this parsley dressing is her go-to salad dressing at home. It’s super easy to make and she always has a bottle of it on top of her kitchen counter. I bragged so much about it to another friend in our running group that Tania had to make a dressing batch just for this other friend to try.

I have been dreaming of making salads with this dressing for a while now… and this is my homage to Tania’s Parsley Dressing. I hope I make it justice. A bottle of this is standing on my kitchen counter as I type!!

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PARSLEY DRESSING

1 bunch of curly parsley, thicker stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
½ tbs kosher salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup water

This is the time to take out your immersion blender… I first used my food processor, but just a bunch of parsley is too small to use a large processor. Tania makes it in her Vitamix blender…

  1. In a glass measuring cup measure the olive oil and the water. Add the garlic clove, salt and the coarsely chopped parsley to the large measuring cup. Start pureeing with the immersion blender until the oil emulsifies and turns creamy.
  2. The measuring cup is nice because the spout will help you decant it into a bottle where you can keep the dressing for future use.

The dressing is chunky… but it’s super flavorful. Pour it over a green salad or even boiled potatoes or rice. It’s very, very versatile.

This is a great use of all that curly parsley that goes on sale frequently. I tend to prefer flat-leaf parsley in recipes, but for this preparation, curly works just fine.

Lunch @ Panera Bread

15 Oct

I am sandwich lover… I could live off sandwiches my whole life. That should be no secret to you guys…

My sister is always raving about . Florida is full of them. She’s always bragging about how good the bread is, how delicious the sandwiches are. But I am a picky person… picky in the sense that if I do not see exactly what I like or crave that moment on the menu, I think places should make an effort to please me as best they can.

I have become a master of navigating thru a restaurant’s menu and identifying what is it exactly that I can and want to eat. And my former experiences with Panera Bread were not positive. I can’t pin point now what it was… but I remember looking at the menu over and over and over again trying to figure out how to build a sandwich that would hit the spot. Because of that impression, I would drive past Panera Bread places without thinking too much into them.

But recently I was driving from Orlando to Miami and we needed to eat something before we left on our 4 hour drive south. I tried several places I was more interested in eating but fate would have it that the best place suitable was Panera Bread, so we decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised to find on their menus these Sandwich and Salad combos. They also have soups, but I never trust soups at restaurants, even if they say they’re vegetarian. Besides, it was hot outside and my stomach preferred the cold bit of a salad to the warmth of a soup. Besides I always feel I am not being that naughty when I eat lots of bread and cheese if somehow it’s paired with a large and abundant salad.

I was pleasantly surprised to see they had 2 vegetarian sandwich options on their menu… This is what we ordered:

 Caprese Panini with Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil pressed in a baguette with a Greek Salad

Veggie Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread with a Garden Salad

The salads were extremely generous and the ½ sandwiches were just enough to fill us up. The lunches tasted fresh and hearty at the same time. I liked it so much to the point of starting to crave the same thing the next day and the next day. That to me is the sign of a good meal… when you are willing to have the same thing every day for a few days straight.

So to my vegetarian friends… if you’re ever in a pinch to select something for lunch, give Panera Bread a try. I may not have been blown away the first time I tried them, but it paid off to give them another try. People and places always deserve second chances… no??

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